cover image The Last Empire: de Beers, Diamonds, and the World

The Last Empire: de Beers, Diamonds, and the World

Stefan Kanfer / Author Farrar Straus Giroux $25 (409p) ISBN 97

Kanfer ( A Summer World ), a writer and editor at Time , focuses more clearly on history than on analysis in this chronicle of the South African-based De Beers diamond empire. He stylishly recounts tales of 19th-century South Africa, where such arresting characters as Barney Barnato and Cecil Rhodes made fortunes on the frontier. He describes the founding of De Beers's sibling, the Anglo-American Corp., and the quirky, powerful Oppenheimer family at its helm. Kanfer offers an adequate, but not probing, analysis of De Beers's alliances with South Africa's enemies, and the cartel's currently diminishing prospects due to the political situations in Angola and Russia. Conspicuously missing are both a description of the important role De Beers and Anglo have played over the past two years during South Africa's protracted negotiations toward democracy, and a consideration of how they might fare under a new government. Photos not seen by PW. (Sept.)